Tropical depression over Atlantic Ocean remains large but disorganized, forecasters say

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2006

A tropical depression brewing over the open Atlantic remains large but disorganized, forecasters said.

“It’s right on the cusp of becoming a (tropical) storm, but we don’t anticipate significant strengthening,” forecaster Jamie Rhome said.

The sixth depression of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season had top sustained winds near 35 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It would be named Florence if it reaches tropical storm strength with winds of at least 39 mph.

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At 5 a.m. EDT, the depression was centered about 1,030 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and moving west-northwest near 13 mph, a path forecasters said was expected to continue for the next day.

It comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which was briefly the season’s first hurricane before hitting Florida and North Carolina last week as a tropical storm.

Ernesto hit the U.S. mainland at tropical storm strength, first moving over Florida, then swinging out to sea before hitting the Carolinas just short of hurricane strength last week.

Along the East Coast, the storm and its remnants tore down tree limbs and power lines and flooded low-lying areas and roads. At least nine deaths have been attributed to Ernesto, including six in Virginia, one in North Carolina and two in Pennsylvania.

The after-effects were still being felt. About 18,700 Con Edison customers, or an estimated 75,000 people, remained without power in New York’s Westchester County early Tuesday, spokesman Alfonso Quiroz said. “The storm hit us harder than we expected,” he said.

In Huntington, N.Y., a tree that was believed to be about 550 years old was weakened by the storm and fell Sunday. The tree, believed to be the oldest black oak in North America, once stood 90 feet tall.

In North Carolina, the overflowing Northeast Cape Fear River began to recede Monday, although forecasters said the waterway probably won’t be back to normal levels until the end of the week. About 140 people have been evacuated in Duplin and Pender counties.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season hasn’t been as rough as many forecasters initially feared. Forecaster William Gray downgraded his expectations for the season on Friday to five hurricanes, a slightly below-average season. The National Hurricane Center lowered its Atlantic storms forecast in August to between seven and nine hurricanes.

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